Asset Building Working Paper

What We Know About Effects of Asset Holding: Implications for Research on Asset-Based Anti-Poverty Initiatives

Asset accumulation programs have emerged at local and state levels to help poor people save for purposes such as education, homeowership, and microenterprise development. These anti-poverty programs are built in part on the suggestion that assets have a wide range of positive effects on well-being, and they frequently use a system of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) to structure asset accumulation. In addition, federal legislation for an IDA demonstration has increasing support. The emergence of asset accumulation programs at local and state levels, along with growing bipartisan support for a national IDA demonstration, makes applied research both possible and necessary. Studies that evaluate the implementation, performance, and impacts of IDAs and other asset-based anti-poverty initiatives will be critical in assessing the potential of domestic policy built in part on special savings accounts. In planning and implementing such evaluations, researchers can get some guidance from previous studies on effects of asset holding. This paper summarizes findings from 25 studies addressing the personal and social effects of asset holding. The research reviewed here examines effects of asset holding on (1) personal well-being, (2) economic security, (3) civic behavior and community involvement, (4) women’s status, and (5) well-being of children. Findings from the studies are briefly described and then summarized in tables according to these general categories of effects. The paper ends with implications for research on asset-based antipoverty initiatives.

Project: American Dream Policy Demonstration (ADD)


Page-Adams, D., & Sherraden, M. (1996). What we know about effects of asset holding: Implications for research on asset-based anti-poverty initiatives (CSD Working Paper No. 96-01). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.